Based on hydrogen’s current and forecasted uptake, it will have a 0.5% slice of the global energy mix in 2030 and 5% in 2050 – just one-third of what is necessary for net zero – finds energy advisory company DNV in its latest report.

Hydrogen – particularly its grey and blue forms derived from natural gas – is controversial in the energy transition, but the report concludes it will have a major role to play in decarbonising industries that cannot readily shift to electrification.

“Hydrogen is essential to decarbonise sectors that cannot be electrified, like aviation, maritime and high-heat manufacturing, and should therefore be prioritised for these sectors,” said Remi Eriksen, group president and CEO of DNV, at the report’s launch in June.

Aircraft parked at a taxiway at Hong Kong International airport. (Photo by Heychli via Shutterstock)

Blue hydrogen will have short-term success, making up 30% of hydrogen production in 2030, predicts DNV. It will substitute coal and natural gas in processes such as iron and steel production but only until renewable energy capacity increases and lower prices enable large-scale green hydrogen production.

Green hydrogen will account for 72% of hydrogen production by 2050, says the report, but the electricity needed to power the electrolyser capacity for that amount (3,100GW) is more than twice the current installed generation capacity of wind and solar power globally.

Global spend on hydrogen production for energy purposes between now and 2050 will be $6.8trn, with an extra $180bn spend on hydrogen pipelines and $530bn on ammonia terminal construction and operation, forecasts DNV.

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It predicts that because repurposing a natural gas pipeline for hydrogen costs 10–35% of the price of building a new one, more than half of new hydrogen pipelines will be repurposed.

Pipelines will take hydrogen between countries but not between continents, and the global hydrogen trade will struggle with the cost of liquifying hydrogen for transport, DNV warns.

Ammonia is a more stable derivative of hydrogen and will be readily transportable by ship and traded globally. However, despite its importance to decarbonising heavy transport like shipping and aviation, DNV forecasts it will not take off until the 2030s.